FIU Maps of The Mind Washington Metro Subway Map Review Discussion


Cartographers are individuals who explore physical space and try to represent it in a two-dimensional image. In simpler terms, they draw maps. But have you ever looked at the types of maps these individuals draw for subway or metro routes?

The map on the left is the Washington Metro subway map, and the one on the right is what the subway routes actually look like. If you used the map on the left, you would believe a lot of those stops on the red and blue line are equal distance apart. Once you inspect the map on the right, you might realize that many stops are very clustered together towards the city’s center. These stops get significantly further apart as you head outward from the central Washington area. The real routes themselves are also not as straight and organized as the Metro map makes them seem.

Task: Use the concepts and terminology from Chapter 7’s section on Cognitive Maps to answer the following questions.

  1. What similarities do you see between the Washington Metro map and the way our cognitive maps represent physical space? Talk about any two specific effects that seem relevant in the example above. (6 pts)
  2. More importantly, why would a cartographer distort the physical environment so dramatically in his map? (4 pts)
    • Compare the Metro map to what cognitive maps do. Is there a benefit to this distortion?
    • What could be a downside to these map distortions?

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